A friend of mine, Kristin, was kind enough to collect information about what to watch out for in the various environments of Brazil, including your home, if you do not want to get bit by a poisonous creature. Please see below, including disclosure.
Venomous Beasties of Brazil: A Short Guide
DISCLAIMER BY AUTHOR OF THIS DOCUMENT: I have no specialized or medical training in venomous beasts of Brazil. I attended two courses at Instituto Butantan and all information contained here is based on their published documents. I cannot be responsible for anything. My overall recommendation: err on the side of caution. Get medical attention for bug/spider/scorpion/snake.
This is a quick look at the bad guys of Brazil (snakes, spiders, scorpions and caterpillars). If you think you have been bitten or stung by any of these ones, please try to catch the beast (within reason, hello, no going after the rattler!) and bring it in a jar with you to Hospital Vital Brasil at Butantan (Av. Vital Brasil, 1500). If you are outside Sao Paulo, call them at 11-2627-9529 or 11-2726-7962. There are serum locations all over Brazil. DO NOT FREAK OUT. The risk of death is not immediate, in most cases (if you have a prior medical history of respiratory or cardiac issues, you’ll want to move quickly.)
There are four venomous snakes in Brazil: jararaca, cascavel (rattlesnake), coral verdadeira (coral snake) and sururucu. Here are the links to see if you have been bit by one of those:
1. Jararaca: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bothrops_jararaca
2. Cascavel (rattlesnake):http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crotalus_durissus
3. Coral snake: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral_snake. There is also a “false” coral that has coloring the same as the real one to protect it from predators. Do not stop and ask which one it is. Assume all corals are venomous–according to Butanta, only biologists can tell the difference…
4. Surucucu: http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surucucu
If you see a snake, leave it alone. If you or a loved one, or even an unloved one gets bit, DO NOT USE A TOURNIQUET. DO NOT CUT THE BITE AREA AND SUCK OUT POISON (sheesh, Hollywood has not helped here). Wash the area with water and soap, keep the affected area raised if possible. Get medical assistance. It is important for the medical facility to know which one has bit you. Try to bring it with you, or identify it well (photo?)
There are four species of scorpions in Brazil: all are venomous. As Butanta says, few cause grave accidents though apparently it hurts like a **&*$&%^. There are many scorpions in Sao Paulo, for those who live in Morumbi, WATCH OUT!
The four types are the yellow scorpion, brown scorpion, yellow scorpion of the northeast (I kid you not), and the black Amazon scorpion. If you want to look them up, go ahead, but suffice it to say, they are all bad. Get thee to the hospital.
Again, wash with warm water and soap. You can use a warm water compress to deal with pain. It is important for the medical facility to know which scorpion has stung you…try to get a good look.
There are two common venomous spiders in Brazil, and one not-so-common but still venomous.
1. Loxosceles (brown recluse): This one is found inside and outside of just about every house in Brazil. They like to live behind the furniture, behind artwork on walls and in ancy dark place. They are shy—they will not attack you unless you are messing with them. Relatively small (3 cm). http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aranha-marrom
2. Armadeira (Phoneutria, or Murderess! Yikes!): This dude is baaaaaad. Seriously, he likes to fight. He’ll put up his front legs like he wants to take you on . Very aggressive; these will attack if they feel threatened. I have seen many in Ribeirao Preto. They like to live in construction materials, around fruit and fruit trees and in the middle of leaves and rocks. They can be quite large (15 cm). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_wandering_spider
3. Black widow: very uncommon around here. 2 cm. Not as dangerous to humans but not fun to be bit by them. Butanta spent 2 minutes on it, so I’m guessing not so worrisome. Still, don’t get bit, okay? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latrodectus
Okay, specifically I am talking about moth caterpillars, called “tataranas”. My easy rule on this one is that if it’s fuzzy or spikey, don’t touch it. You know those cute fuzzy bear caterpillars in the US that you used to play with as a kid? Don’t play with fuzzy caterpillars here. They are crabby and venomous.
1. Fuzzy caterpillars (megalopygidae): They cannot kill you but it hurts. This one I have experienced—it’s not fun. Example here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/daeljunior/7095023621/
2. Spikey caterpillars: Okay the bad boy of spikey caterpillars is Lonomia. They live in groups, they are brown with green spikes and they have a white spot near their heads. They can cause bad accidents. Get thee to medical attention. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lonomia
Instituto Butantan has wonderful courses on these beasts. In Portuguese but with lots of photos. I probably will go again…love this stuff! Also visiting them will help you know which guys are bad, and which are okay. The Biology museum is fantastic!
Thank you Kristen for this incredible helpful info! Remember, err on the side of caution. And if you happen across a really interesting creature, take a picture… but don’t take it home.